We recently completed an extensive basement remodel for our client Paul Bailey. He was gracious enough to recount for us the story of an unwelcome visitor, who decided to take advantage of the hubbub going on during the construction phase of his project.
Last fall, our empty nester neighborhood email chatter was filled with stories detailing sightings of a busy beaver down at the pond. There was considerable controversy and concern expressed. Having recently become semi-retired, I was able to keep up with most every update. A certain incident provided me a new perspective on the matter and I decided to weigh in as follows:
I left our basement windows open for much of Sunday afternoon in a hopeful attempt to flush out some of the drywall dust that was perhaps the worst inconvenience that we have endured to finish off the lower space of our new home.
Late that evening, as I was preparing for bedtime, I was quite startled by a strange critter scampering through the main level master bedroom. About the size a football were it more round, with an equally long flat tail that was as scaly as the skin of any lizard and sporting a coat of thick black fur sticking out kind of like the quills on a porcupine, I had never seen anything quite like it.
Although I was not at all certain what I was dealing with, there was no doubt that I wanted this trespasser out of my house and, although I made my feelings abundantly clear, he or she (I didn’t check but let’s just assume that it was a male for the rest of this story) didn’t speak my language.
Apparently, the stranger was also startled by the sight of me because he rushed to hide under my bed in an unsuccessful effort to remain undetected.
Having previously dealt with bats, mice, birds, wasps and squirrels that had entered my previous homes for brief visits, I made the foolish assumption that I could simply open my doors to the outside world and provide a little guidance after which he and I would be able to resume our normal daily activities…..like getting some sleep. Unfortunately, this guy did not respond well to my coaching technique.
His only response to my not so gentle prodding was to simply move from one hiding spot to another and another one after that. Eventually, over the next hour so, he seemingly located all of the home’s various nooks and crannies, more of which than I thought was possible in a two bedroom ranch home with the limited furnishings of a recently divorced man.
My lack of success was beginning to frustrate me. I had showed him both the front and back door; I clearly wasn’t being charming; was not offering luscious libations or tasty treats. Just to be clear, I have never been told that I look like a female muskrat. So why would he not leave already?
My aggravation reached a new level once my uninvited guest found a way under the plastic sheet that the contractor had wrapped tightly (except at the bottom) around the entry to the basement. I unzipped the plastic door to find my unruly guest standing firm just three steps down. He began hissing at me. This ugly behavior disturbed me and increased my desire to expel him.
I quickly constructed a barrier at the top of the stairs using boxes of supplies that the contractors had delivered for the basement project. I rushed to my garage to look for a piece of equipment that might convince this large rodent that it was time to leave the premises.
However, being a nonviolent person, I was unable to engineer any viable solution among my garden tools. So I returned with my not so trusty broom to resume hostilities. By this time the varmint had descended the remaining steps into the basement, where he apparently found a dark corner to hide. I didn’t want to meet up with a varmint in a dark corner. Besides, it was getting quite late and so I decided to concede round one to my opponent.
I re-enforced my barrier and laid down to a restful night of sleep.
Although we were both up way past midnight, my uninvited guest got in gear at the break of dawn. The crafty creature, who must have been quite amused at how I had vastly underestimated his prowess, easily penetrated my supposedly secure fortress. It was his final thrust and victory chant that awakened me from my slumber.
I am anything but a morning person but on this day I had no choice but to rise to the challenge. Actually, I was inspired by the determination of my new acquaintance. He had earned my respect; now I wanted him to gain mine.
Apparently thinking he would not be seeing me up at this early hour, he hastily ran to one his favorite hiding spots from the prior night, which happened to be Pops’ hutch (Pops is my father who lives with be but who was in the hospital at this time).
Not feeling a bit groggy despite no caffeine, I spent little time developing my battle plan. First I constructed a clear route to the now wide open front door. To help you visualize the scene, my path was reminiscent of tire barriers that the surround a go cart track.
At this point I began to spray air freshener under the hutch. I sprayed a lot and then sprayed some more. When the can ran out, I grabbed my daughter’s hair spray and sprayed that under there. I can’t stand the smell of this stuff and I began developing a massive headache. Seemingly the “fragrance” had no impact on Super Rodent so round two fell to him. He was beginning to embarrass me.
Some things about this situation needed to change and fast. I loudly informed my nemesis that this had become a personal matter and that we would be doing battle.
My new bold plan involved my seldom used shop vacuum, which happened to have a really long nozzle. Jabbing away at him with the speed and agility of the great Ali and with the blowing noise of the powerful motor backed up with my iPhone playing Led Zeppelin the way it should be played – loud, I convinced my foe that there was no choice but to abandon his position.
With momentum clearly turning in my favor, he now was forced squarely onto the path that I had so carefully engineered. It seemed promising. But this critter apparently did not like to be told what to do any more than your typical defiant teenager. Believe me, I know about this. But once again he was able to detect a flaw in my strategy. He somehow went off road on me.
Finally he made an uncharacteristic mental error and ran to the end of a hallway with no place left to go, the doors having been closed by me in preparation for the epic battle.
Cornered, he resorted to more hissing and pretending to be a real tough guy. To counter, I exhibited some fancy karate moves that I had seen in the movies.
Steeling my nerves, I psyched myself up just like I did way back when I could still play team sports. I grabbed my broom and methodically approached him. My opponent raised up, bared his teeth, daring me to come closer. I deliberately moved toward the position he was holding firm and engaged him. At this moment, I sensed that the respect that I had for him was mutual.
After some initial jostling for position, I was able to gain an advantage. I began pushing and shoving him back toward the track that I had so diligently set up. I was clearly winning this war and could smell victory.
I continued to sweep him in the proper direction much like an all star hockey player skillfully maneuvering the puck toward the goal. He repeatedly tried to turn back around to face me but I am proud to say that each time I was ready with my trusty broom.
As I neared the front door, I gave one final shove that sent him over the finish line so to speak. I yelled at him to never come back and I’m happy to report that he hasn’t, at least not so far. But I would not be surprised if he has revenge on his mind. I suspect that he is concentrating on lessor opponents trying to rebuild his confidence. He really liked our home and probably is intrigued to see how the basement turned out.
So my position is that I have no problem with the cute little beaver as long as we keep an eye on him. We don’t want him to turn the little pond into a big pond.
But if you see a nasty black MUSKRAT down there at the pond, please tell him to stay away from my house!